gaming

Japan, the land of the rising sun, has many things to offer. The country has a rich culture with a large history. Amongst its cultural richness, you can also discover things like cat-cafés, toilet-themed restaurants, or one of the many different arcade halls.

With a tradition dating back to the first arcade halls, gaming is huge in Japan, as it’s perceived as a great way of socializing. If you’re already working in the gaming industry, you might already know that gaming is a big thing in Japan. But you might be asking yourself, how do I bring my games to the Japanese consumer? How do I enter the market? This article is your guide to do exactly that.

What’s the Japanese games market like?

In one word: HUGE

Did you know that Japan is the third-largest games market in the world? Since the beginning of the gaming industry of Japan in the ’60s, it has boomed and evolved over time. From the famous arcade games like Mario and Pac-man to well-developed AAA games by big players such as Nintendo, Sony, Playstation, or SEGA.

Besides consoles, another popular gaming device is the smartphone. Mobile games have experienced great success in the country, with recent surveys showing that 50% of Japanese internet users play games on their smartphones.

And according to Statista, “mobile games take up the largest market share“ with projected revenue of $6,8 billion in 2020. So, there’s a lot of opportunities involved in the mobile games market! Not to mention the rest of the platforms or consoles for gaming in Japan.

Mobile games: the golden nugget

Why are mobile games so trendy in Japan? One main reason is that the internet speed in Japan is lightning fast, and they upgraded it to 5G in 2020, with 92,99 million internet users in the country. This makes it easier to run advanced mobile games that create an engaging and thrilling experience.

So one thing is clear: Japan’s gaming market is dominated by handheld consoles, like a mobile telephone or a Nintendo Switch, being the world’s largest market for mobile games. In 2014, the gaming market of Japan reached $9.6 billion, and $5.8 billion came from mobile gaming.

Another rising gaming trend in Japan is the uprising of Esports. Although it’s a slow process when compared to other countries like USA and China, is a steady one. The Japanese government wants to expand the Japanese Esports industry by supporting companies and legal experts in developing large tournaments.

So, how can you get a foot in the Japanese games market?

Challenges related to entering the Japanese games market

If you’ve made it this far, you will agree with us when we say the possibilities are endless (especially if your company develops games for handheld devices). But there’s a catch: entering the Japanese market can be quite complex. There are two main reasons for this. The market is very saturated, and to introduce physical products (including games in physical format) you must register your business in Japan.

But if you’re looking to offer Japanese customers a digital product, the journey gets easier, as you can promote and monetize everything digitally and remotely. No matter if you’re offering digital or physical products there are some important tactics to consider when you’re planning your big debut in Japan.

And that’s localization!

Do you know enough about the Japanese consumers and the culture?

It’s more than samurais, sushi, and kimonos. You see, around medieval times Japan was a closed country due to internal politics. No one got in and no one got out. But, with only 23% of its population having a passport, this is somewhat the same mentality that rules the Japanese today. Japan is a very homogeneous country, so it makes sense to localize your project into Japanese. Here’s another reason: 99% of the games that are played in the country are in Japanese, and only 15 % of the annual revenue of the Japanese games market is related to foreign games.

This should not be a surprise, especially when only 2-8 % of the population believes to speak English fluently, and 30% speak the lingua franca at a basic level. Hiring a native Japanese translator is crucial here, and your business would benefit from hiring a Japanese translator with experience in localizing games and a deep understanding f the industry. This way, you’ll ensure 100 % authenticity in your promoting and Ad campaigns.

Why is it important? Japan has the second-highest eCPM (effective cost per mille/thousand) in the world, with many full-screen Interstitial Ads (interactive Ads that cover the interface of the “host-app” or site, like a game app), so you can promote your game.

Avoid "doing a Resident Evil"

and localize your gaming content well.

There is one reason we mentioned native and professional Japanese translations, as it could go terribly wrong with the translation if you’re not careful. It has happened many times before in the gaming industry, one of the most infamous incidents of horrible translation is in the original Resident Evil game, with the “Jill Sandwich” incident. Find more about translations that went wrong in our post.

To ensure that your gaming content is ready to wander around the streets of Tokyo, you should localize your whole game, which includes the title, the logo, and, of course, the dialogues and voice-over. Make it native. Make it truly Japanese.

Localization is our expertise

Knowing these tips about how to uncover the mystery surrounding the games market of Japan, you know localization has a big part to play – that’s what we do best. If you’re looking into translating your in-game dialogue, character quotes, or promotional audio material, get in touch.

As a one-stop-shop, we can provide your company with both localized scripts and audio recordings to insert in-game.

Ruan Le Grange

CEO & Partner, ZA